Lawyer asks for $2 million, jury awards $324,000 in Moto Mart slip and fall trial

Amelia Flood Sep. 22, 2009, 12:24am


After a contentious trial and closing arguments fraught with multiple objections from both sides, a Madison County jury awarded plaintiffs in a slip and fall trial $324,664.41.

The jury considered only damages on the two liability counts of the suit against an Edwardsville Moto Mart and whether to award punitive damages per a directed verdict for John and Linda Linkes handed down by Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder.

Crowder had ordered the directed verdict as a sanction over defendant FKG Oil Company's conduct during the trial. FKG is parent company of the Moto Mart. The company had also been sanctioned prior to the trial.

Neither side had comment following the jury's unanimous verdict after just over three hours of deliberations.

John Linkes sued FKG after a March 2007 fall on a mopped floor. He and his wife sought damages for medical costs, pain, loss of consortium and the loss of a normal life as well as the punitive damages.

During the trial, both sides objected to various issues, with opposing counsel sometimes interrupting the other side.

Employees of FKG and company president, Robert Forsyth, admitted the company's safety policies to prevent accidents like John Linkes' had not been followed, with Forsyth admitting they "could have been better."

During closing arguments, plaintiffs' counsel Gordon Broom asked the jury to "punish" FKG for its lack of safety training and suggested that $2 million in total damages would be appropriate.

He stressed the lack of a safety officer other than Forsyth who admitted in his testimony that he did not have formal safety training. He argued the company should have brought in an expert "instead of relying on the common sense of an English major from Minnesota," referencing Forsyth.

FKG's attorney Victor Avellino asked the jury to consider their own experiences in awarding the liability damages and that they find for FKG on the punitive count. He argued that the company had not intentionally caused Linkes injury or intended to disregard safety measures, points Broom objected to.

"This wasn't a situation where a manager doesn't care about his customers," Avellino said. He argued that while the Moto Mart employees' actions on the day of John Linkes' injury weren't ideal, they weren't evidence of "an evil state of mind."

The jury began deliberating about 12:45 p.m.

The verdict awarded John Linkes his stipulated past medical costs of $49,664.41. He was also awarded $150,000 for past and future pain, $75,000 for his future medical costs and $50,000 for the loss of a normal life.

His wife, Linda, was awarded $10,000 for the loss of her husband's services in the past and future and $5,000 for lost society. The jury awarded John Linkes $50,000 in punitive damages.

The trial began Sept. 14.

The case is Madison case number 08-L-410.

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